Monday, August 7, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He declared himself popular and beloved, if you ignore the polls.

In the midst of a 9-tweet flurry sent this morning from his luxury golf resort (though Trump maintains he is not on vacation) Trump declared that, ignoring "Fake News," his "base" was "bigger & stronger than ever." Trump's disapproval numbers have been higher than his approvals for all but a few days of his presidency, usually with about a 20% gap between the two.

But Trump's tweet specified his "base," not his overall numbers--and polls specifically show his base is abandoning him. White voters with no college degree, whom Trump famously courted by declaring "I love the poorly educated!" now disapprove of him by a 50-43 margin. A separate CNN poll shows only 35% of non-college whites expressing strong approval. Trump won 66% of this group in the election. Trump's 76% approval rating among Republicans may sound high, but in fact it is dangerously low, especially for this early in a presidential term, and is down from a high of 89%.

Trump generally defines "fake news" as news that is unflattering to him, as opposed to deliberate and knowingly false bot-driven social media propaganda of the sort that Russia is known to have deployed on his behalf. By Trump's definition, even the Republican-friendly pollster Rasmussen--the only one ever approvingly cited in a Trump tweet--is now "fake news." Rasmussen has his "strong approval" rating down 19% from its high (25% today vs. 44% in the week after his inauguration). Joining Rasmussen in unintentional "fake news" category is senior advisor Kellyanne Conway, who apparently had not gotten the memo about Trump's popularity when she admitted that Republican voters were frustrated with him.

So why is this a bad thing?

  • After about the fourth grade, declaring yourself popular does not make you popular.
  • Presidents who are capable at their jobs use opinion polls to help craft policies in line with Americans' values.
  • Not being able to believe or accept that people don't like you is an aspect of narcissism, and it is not a sign of good mental health.
  • Presidents who are only interested in what their supporters think are not doing their job.